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Blurred Image of the Inside of a ChurchThe number of non-religious people in America has increased. If you are not religious, being invited to a religious ceremony can feel awkward. Most people have friends from different religions these days. You might be invited to a Jewish bat mitzvah, a non-religious wedding or a Christian baptism. Here are some things to think about to help you navigate the unknown.

Ask What To Expect

There’s often a lot of anxiety about the unknown. If you’re not sure what your loved one expects you to do, ask. They may only want you to sit in the audience and witness the ritual. If you’re concerned that you’ll be asked to participate in some way, discuss this ahead of time. It’s okay to set boundaries. You can tell your family that you’ll attend but that you don’t want to come down to the front when the baby is baptized. If your family won’t support your boundaries, that might be the answer on whether you should attend or not.

How Should You Participate?

In many religious rites, you may be asked to participate in readings or prayers that are said collectively as an audience. You do not have to say or do anything that goes against your principles. Just stand or sit quietly during these times. If you are offered communion, just shake your head or pass the tray. Most of the time, no one will even notice or care.

What Should You Wear?

The best policy is to ask the host what is appropriate. Church has changed a lot over the last few years, and it is more casual than in the past. For most rituals, the invitees do dress up, but it can depend on the place and time of the ceremony. A baptism held outside at a lake might be much different from a christening in a church. Some invitations may spell out a dress code. It’s usually better to dress up than to be underdressed.

What About Gifts?

Again, if you’re not sure about gifts, you can always ask the host. At baptisms and christenings, a religious book or jewelry can be appropriate. You could also give a gift card or savings bond. At bar or bat mitzvahs, the most common gift is money, which is usually put toward future studies. Usually, you would bring a gift to the celebration, but you can always send it to their home before the ceremony.

To Attend or Not Attend?

If you’re questioning whether to attend or not, consider that the participants want you there to celebrate this rite of passage. Attendance is not about you or your principles. It’s about supporting a loved one. It can help to take the religious aspect out of the equation. Would you go if there wasn’t any religion involved? How will not attending affect your relationship? Is this person important enough to you to put aside your own beliefs for a few hours? Whether you go or not, the ceremony is still going to happen. Is this the line you can’t cross?

Can You Find a Compromise?

Regardless of what you decide, be gracious and RSVP appropriately. If you can’t attend but still want to let the person know you care, send a nice gift with a letter expressing your regrets. You don’t need to get into your reasons, but you can say that you’re very sorry you can’t be there. If the religious aspect is a problem, ask if you can attend the celebration following the ritual or if you can take them out for a special dinner one night. You may not want to support the religion, but you can still support your loved ones and family.

Category: Ceremonies

religious ceremony

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